State Labor Government roadblocks to effective national management of the Murray Darling Basin have been highlighted by a second major independent report in two days, newly appointed Coalition spokesman Senator Simon Birmingham said today.
Today’s National Water Commission report on water trading has restated key concerns in yesterday’s Productivity Commission report on market mechanisms for recovering water.
“These two reports highlight the Rudd Government’s continuing failure to achieve effective national management of the Murray Darling Basin,” Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for the Murray Darling Basin Simon Birmingham said.
“The inability of Rudd Labor to get their Victorian and New South Wales mates to unequivocally support national action to save the Murray Darling is now clear.
“In the space of just two days independent reports from the Productivity Commission and the National Water Commission have highlighted restrictions on water trading by Victoria and New South Wales as roadblocks to actions that could help save the Murray Darling.”
Yesterday’s report by the Productivity Commission slammed the Victorian Government restrictions on water trade, specifically its 4 per cent cap on ‘out-of-area’ trade, as well as the restrictions on trade the Rudd Government has agreed to with New South Wales:
“… the continued application of the 4 per cent annual cap on trade of entitlements out of an irrigation area is seriously distorting markets and the options open to DEWHA in conducting the buyback … Similarly, the agreement between the Commonwealth and NSW Governments to constrain the sale of NSW-based entitlements to the Commonwealth … unnecessarily constrains the buyback. While this arrangement is far less binding than the Victorian agreement, it too should be removed.”
Today’s report of the National Water Commission also attacked the Victorian Government restrictions and cited them as the reason for retaliatory action by New South Wales:
During 2008–09, the 4% limit was triggered in six irrigation districts in Victoria, constraining entitlement trade out of those districts … In May 2009, the New South Wales Government placed an embargo on the future sale of water entitlements for environmental purposes. It argued that it was bearing an inequitable proportion of the Commonwealth purchase of water for the environment because the 4% limit had been reached (or almost reached) in most Victorian irrigation districts.”
“Minister Wong cannot continue to pretend these roadblocks will eventually sort themselves out. She must step in and ensure that national management actually means national management, not management simply of those aspects the Labor States are willing to surrender,” Senator Birmingham said.